We had the good fortune of connecting with Randy Gloss and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Randy, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
For me, everything is a matter of perspective. In the context of risk versus reward I see it more as being present and in the moment, recognizing opportunities when they present themselves and staying open to the possibilities. I tend to “go with my gut” and “follow my heart”, my instinctual and more immediate response. This openness and doing it from a place of love is of course another essential ingredient. The mind will rationalize a million ways in which something is risky, impractical, irrational, dangerous…why I shouldn’t do something, but that first response of following my heart has been what’s guided me and shaped the path of my life and career. A sentiment I find myself repeating to students when talking about their own burgeoning careers is, “improviser in music, improviser in life”. Stay open, be present. Another idea is one of surrender. I “surrendered” to my music many years ago. Not surrendered as in “I give up” (quite the contrary) but surrender to the currents and tides, and where my musical path might take me (like Bruce Lee said, “be like water”). Truth be told though, this idea of surrender is often quite the opposite of “I give up”, as there will be countless other struggles and fights as you blaze your own trail. So what role has risk played in my life/career? It’s been nothing but risks one after the other, but I really just see it as following my heart. This difference in perspective has made things possible for me, who was an otherwise very shy kid and still not a gambling man, to have a musical career that’s exceeded my own expectations.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a drummer and percussionist. More specifically, many people refer to what I do as “world percussion” in that it’s not specifically limited to “western percussion”. I’ve always been curious about exploring the larger world of drumming and rhythm as a way to inform my own perspective as a musician. However, I tend to see myself not as a world percussionist but uniquely as an American percussionist. Being open to the musical world around me, studying my art from a global perspective but essentially all right here in one of the most multicultural cities, in one of the most multicultural states, in one of the most multicultural countries in the world. My drumming is a melting pot. (Legendary Macedonian guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski once told me after a concert that I “play like National Geographic”. I still don’t know if that was a compliment or a dig, but I wear that sentiment like a badge of honor). Even though I spend considerable time and energy studying traditional musical arts, my focus as a musician is on contemporary applications, synthesis of ideas, developing a more informed approach to my own drumming vocabulary. I feel very strongly that in order to build these “contemporary” ideas, the foundation(s) must be strong. This is done with a deep sense of humility, love, respect, reverence, and a simple quest for knowledge, by way of surrounding myself with people who nurture, empower, and fully believe that music is not all elitist but is for everyone. As far as, “was it easy”? show me any musician with a career over a few decades who’s had it easy. However, I will say from my own personal experience that it can sometimes get easier over time, as scar tissue makes the skin tougher. As far as lessons learned along the way, there’s a lifetime of lessons worthwhile to mention, but having spent so much time immersed in other music cultures, that has of course been one of the greatest and ever consistent sources of learning and growing not just in a musical sense, but as a human being. As far as challenges, again I see this as a matter of perspective. Challenges, obstacles, mistakes, these are all opportunities to learn and grow. This is something I’ve learned from my mentors and perhaps none more so than my teacher Swapan Chaudhuri. Who when I seek his counsel in the face of the most challenging of situations always adds in the sincerest of ways that “it’s good for me”!!! As far as what I would want the world to know about my brand or story. Truthfully, I’ve not focused on cultivating a brand, relying much more on the respect and support of my peers than popularity on any larger sense. At the core, I’m a simple person living a simple life, fortunate to be surrounded by great people that I love, respect and admire. Bottom line, I’m just all about good music and good drumming and I love to both experience and share with regard to those things, whatever any of that means….simple.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I might just possibly be the absolute worst person to field this question. As what I like, isn’t often what my visitors wish to see or spend their time doing. I’ve bored the heck out of some guests taking them to record shops (where I easily spend countless hours), to museums where I could lose days, and after a short time they’re ready to go. Taking people on hikes with breathtaking views, to then realize they dislike, don’t want to, or can’t hike. I literally dread and stress over creating these kinds of itineraries. For years now, I rely more on the suggestions of others who are more “in the know” and often compile excessive lists of multiple options for my guests to choose from. So with that, I’ll say, “pass”!!! Instead I’m curious to read what others would suggest when answering this question, as even after 25 years of living in L.A. I feel like I’m still just scratching the surface.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
YES!!!! The last time I was interviewed for Voyage LA I made it a special point to thank my mother. This time I absolutely must acknowledge my teachers. In my musical life, I would be nothing and nowhere without them. First and foremost, John Bergamo and Padma Shree Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri. John was my mentor, who not only trained me as a musician, but groomed me for the career I have today. When John transitioned towards retirement, Swapanda took a personal vested interest in looking out for me ever since, every step of the way in support, teaching, mentorship, love and guidance. If that wasn’t blessed enough, I have been the recipient and benefactor of the teaching and mentorship of many influential musicians and teachers in their fields: Dan Kennedy, Houman Pourmehdi, Poovalur Sriji, Guello, Carlos Stasi, Alfred Ladzekpo and many other great teachers along the way as well: Michael Lipsey, I Nyoman Wenten, David Johnson, Victor Rendon, Arthur Lipner, Warren Odze, Jim Mola, Wadada Leo Smith, Adam Rudolph, Rajeev Taranath….and my childhood drum teacher Buddy Ostapowicz who started me down this endlessly amazing and fascinating path of drums and drumming.
B&W: Eron Rausch; color: Annissa Gloss, Myles Regan, Noureddine El Warari, Houman Pourmehdi, Rich Mangicaro, unknown.